That's not to say you won't have some pretty key indicators that will work for you and your animal partner ... things like
degree of pain,
awareness of surroundings,
pleasure in the environment,
your ability to cope with increasing needs.. all of those things will contribute to your decision of course but there is no piece of paper that suddenly appears to say TODAY. is IT.
Ideally our animals, and human, companions will pass away peacefully at home with no assistance beyond pain relief but I have to be honest and tell you that I only have that experience once with Dumont, I wish it every time but it's not the way the cookie crumbles around here, and it's really not a reasonable expectation either. We can be kinder and more compassionate to our animal family than our human family in most parts of the world and while that is a heavy burden to bear it's an important one to stare in the face occasionally.
What do I mean by that? I mean think it through. Where are your lines? Knowing ahead of time helps. (Only a little but any bit of help is a good thing).
- If a dog can't get to bed or out to the garden what accommodations can you make?
- If a dog spends long hours with their head pressed on a wall is that acceptable?
- What can you afford? Both financially and emotionally? You absolutely need to identify these things.
- If your dog falls over occasionally are you ok with righting them, steadying them and repeating again and again through the day?
- If kibble no longer is tasty is there quality of life with tempting daily and possibly force feeding or doing fluid therapy?
Only you know your own answers and to be completely frank what is acceptable for one dog may impinge greatly on quality of life for another even in the same home. Brody was a goer and doer, if he fell over he stared at me til I righted him and then trucked on again. I can't imagine Thea thinking that was at all acceptable. But she has needed to be tempted to eat off and on her whole life. Brody never once turned down a good meal.
I always thought Brody would tell me he was ready by not eating but he ate, and ate, and ate right up to his last hour here. Instead he told me very clearly he had had enough of hurting. His pain meds weren't enough and his mobility was decreasing by the minute. He started to lose feeling or strength in one front leg as well as his back end and I knew. I heard myself sharing a piece of wisdom I heard long ago "it's better three days too early than one hour too late" and I knew - deeply and viscerally.
I called my most amazing vet clinic who found me an appointment 3 hours later and I said. Um. Stephanie heard my um and said "come now'. I will be forever grateful. Everything was ready - I walked in holding him close and he, the dog who hated grooming allowed his leg to be shaved, we made no effort to insert a catheter, no effort to tranq him ... he was ready and he was gone as the euthanol hit his system. My best vet, My best tech, Me. Brody. Tom and the amazing staff on standby and close at hand. I've had lots of experience with death and this was truly a "good death" it was quick, it brought comfort.
I am bereft. My heartbeat at my feet is missing. Tom and I have lived with Brody more than half our life together. Life will never be the same.
Yet, still, somehow even today, I would choose this pain over not having loved and known and cherished our little devil dog. The doors he opened for me, the things he taught me, I will be forever grateful.